AN06b_Ch21: The Roaring Life of the 1920s
Timeline: 1920 – 1929
FS: Developments contributing to the rise of Urban America.
Main Idea: Americans experienced cultural conflicts as customs and values changed in the 1920s. Among the trends that challenged prior notions of propriety, and contributed to social/ cultural conflict, were the new lifestyles, jobs, and societal roles pursued by women during the period. To this we can add the contributions of African-Americans, who would contribute ideas, political perspective, art, literature, and music while forever elevating Harlem to iconic status. Mass media, movies, and spectator sports played a contributing role by creating a popular culture that showcased these trends. Many Americans, among them artists and writers, made an effort to criticize the trends of the 1920s.
I. The Dominance of Urban Life
A. 1920 Census: The US becomes an ‘Urban’ nation.
B. Urban Lifestyle: Fast paced, competitive, impersonal. To thrive, what traits would you need?
C. “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” outlook of Post WWI America overwhelm the intended purpose of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) & The Volstead Act.
3. Organized Crime (Scarface – Al Capone, Chicago).
D. Battle of Ideas: Traditional Values/ Concepts vs. Modern (Scientific) Interpretations
1. Creationism vs. Evolution: The Scopes Trial (W. J. Bryan vs. Clarence Darrow)
2. Regarding Women, Traditional and Modern Views clashed
II. Women of the 1920’s: Wild or Assertive?
A. The Flapper and the ‘sexual double standard’. A clash of Victorian ideals & modern views of women.
B. A booming economy liberates women from the home. Discrimination is uninhibited, however.
C. American families change as both parents increasingly acquire an education and pursue a profession. Children raised in this caldron of transitional cultural values will reflect some of these tendencies as they mature.
III. Schools & Popular Culture Shape Young Minds
A. Booming Economy + Huge Immigrant Population = Effort to enroll students
B. Explosion of Mass Media Outlets: Newspapers, Radio
C. Increased Wealth: Leisure Activities & Fades
1. Sports Heroes: The Babe
2. Adventurers: Lucky Lindy
3. Entertainers: George Gershwin
IV. The Many Facets of The Harlem Renaissance
A. The Organizing Element
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP, 1909).
W.E.B. DuBois (founding Member, Writer, Activist).
B. The Political & Economic Efforts of African-Americans
C. The Flowering of the Arts
1. W.E.B. DuBois
2. Claude McKay
3. Langston Hughes
4. Paul Robeson
5. Louis Armstrong
6. ‘Duke’ Ellington
7. Bessie Smith… and others
V. Summary: Why it matters today.
• The way in which different groups react to change continues to cause conflict today.
• Workplace opportunities and trends in family life are still major issues for women today.
• Much of today’s popular culture can trace its roots to the popular culture of the 1920s.
• The Harlem Renaissance provided a foundation of African-American intellectualism to which African-American writers, artists, and musicians contribute today.
– The Americans
– Slide Presentation
– ABC’s “America’s Century”